Sharpen Your Axe

Axe in Log Stump Something I often hear from clients reminds me of the adage:

           “I am too busy chopping wood to sharpen my axe”.
 When business is booming, we think we don’t have time to sharpen our axes.  When business is slow, we think we can’t afford it. My advice is  that it is ALWAYS a good idea to keep those axes sharp.
 The allegory is apt, on many levels. A sharper axe cuts deeper, requiring less effort (and time) to get work done. Taking a break from  relentless chopping to hone that edge can provide renewed vigor and a fresh perspective for flogging away at those  deadlines. Plus, taking good care of your tools makes them last longer.
 As good as this advice always is, it is even more important right now. I know from experience that the best thing you can do when work  slows down, colleagues are laid off and competition for jobs escalates, is to maintain a competitive edge. I have been in this business a long  time, and I’ve weathered several recessions. I survived the mid-1980s and the early 1990s by keeping my axe sharp. When things got grim,  I came in earlier and went home later. I invested a lot of my own time practicing my skills and learning new techniques.  I reached out to  every resource I could find.
 When lay-offs and mandatory work reductions loomed in the early 1990s, I offered to work fewer hours, but put in 40+ anyway. This pre-  emptive strike was a last resort during a particularly dismal stretch, but it saved my job. It wasn’t fun working more hours for less money,  but it beat looking for a new job. Investing the extra hours in my own skill set made it easier to climb the ladder when the economy  improved.
One very human response to a challenging situation is to keep your head down and hope things stay the same, even when common sense tells you that nothing ever stays the same. Challenging times call for action; doing nothing is simply not an option. When bad news and scary rumors fly, focus on the things you CAN control. Make an investment in yourself, it will provide many benefits now, and for years to come. Your supervisor/employer/clients will notice your efforts, increasing your job security. And, if your worst fear materializes, having a sharper axe will help you stand out from your many competitors when searching for a new job.
So, what can you do to sharpen your axe? 
Make the commitment to spending one or more lunch hours each week learning new things. Need that mid-day break? Then consider arriving at work earlier or staying later. Chances are an off-peak commute will be faster and less frustrating, and you’ll have some quiet time to invest in learning new skills. A few hours a week could get you through dozens of individual tutorials, or even a complete training book.
Subscribe to more newsletters like ours, so the free information comes directly to you, without having to remember to go look for it. Share this newsletter with colleagues (they can sign up for it here), and ask them to share their favorites with you.
Find and follow free tutorialslike the ones we maintain here.  Explore them and practice them, even if it seems like they are about something you already know, or might not apply to what you do. Exposing yourself to the multitude of options in Autodesk’s products will keep your axe very sharp. You’re likely to find useful new options in familiar commands and procedures, and learning new ones helps you approach and solve problems in different ways.
Browse the BLOGS. Find a few you like that focus on your products and industry, and check them regularly. I’ll list a few of my favorite BLOGs next month (please send me your favorites, for consideration). Take the time to check out a lot of different BLOGs, and select those that have a style you like, and that offer useful information about the work you do.  Bookmark them and check them regularly. Correspond with the author – you may make a new friend, and you will certainly learn something new.
Attend a local user group. You can find a list of user groups on the AUGI web site, or again, ask your trusted colleagues. There are some excellent groups out there, and if you find one that is well organized  and run by dedicated people, attending regularly can be beneficial. If attendance is down, offer to help recruit new faces. If the value or energy level seems low, get involved and help improve it – offer to help find speakers and products or services to introduce.  Email me for suggestions on how to help make a user group better.
While you’re at the AUGI web site, check out their many networking and educational resources. Most are free, though some require membership. Not a member? Now is a great time to join AUGI! Membership is FREE, and offers many benefits.
Invest in a good training book, and make the commitment to regular hours of self-study, with a target date for completion. Naturally, we’d like you to consider using our books, (we’ve just dropped the prices substantially), but we encourage you to compare. We decided to write these books because we wanted to provide the very best books available.  They will quickly get you up to speed with the basics of Land Desktop, Civil 3D and Map 3D (a powerful component of LDT and C3D). Our books feature step-by-step lessons in bite-size chunks, making them easy to use intermittently, such as a few hours each week during a lunch break. We also organize the included datasets in a way that makes it easy to skip around and learn specific skills, while continuing to work on the same, real-world project.
Do you use Land Desktop or Civil 3D, and don’t think you need to learn Map 3D?  Think again! Many of the Map 3D tools already installed on your computer can save you time on all sorts of repetitive, laborious tasks. Knowing Map 3D is one more way to stand out from the competition; it’s not just for GIS technicians.
Make the commitment to invest some of your own time in improving your skill set. It will increase your value to your employer, and hone your competitive edge in the workplace, as well as the industry. Now is the time to become the sharpest tool in the shed!

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